Kenny warns of 'vicious' Brexit as EU members 'take dim view' of vote
Published 03/11/2016 | 02:30
The Brexit negotiations could get "quite vicious" as some European countries take a "very poor view" of the UK's decision to quit the EU, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.
He said Britain could opt to kick off the formal divorce talks as soon as next month.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March, but Mr Kenny flagged the prospect of the formal exit process starting in December.
Mr Kenny was addressing the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, where he said the focus was on the questions surrounding this island and the UK.
"The other side of this argument may well get quite vicious after a while," he said.
"Because there are those around the European table who take a very poor view of the fact that Britain has decided to leave. And that argument will be fought very toughly in a really difficult negotiating sense."
The gathering at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham was attended by politicians, trade unionists, and business and civic society representatives from throughout the island. Northern Ireland unionist politicians declined to attend.
Mr Kenny said Brexit was "the most significant economic and social challenge of the last 50 years".
"That's why it's so important to have a conversation about what it means," he said.
Mr Kenny also said Europe, in the negotiations, needs to decide where it wants to be in the next 50 years.
"If it becomes obsessed with what the United Kingdom might or might not get, then Europe itself loses the plot," he said.
He warned the triggering of Article 50 could come sooner than the end of March.
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"We know that Prime Minister May has said she'll trigger Article 50 before the end of March. That doesn't mean that it mightn't be triggered in December, January or February. So we have no time to waste," he said.
His comments came ahead of an expected decision from London's High Court today on whether British politicians, rather than the government, must trigger the formal process of leaving the EU.
Meanwhile, in his opening address, Mr Kenny said Ireland and the UK have agreed to preserve the benefits of the common travel area.
"Neither I nor the prime minister desire to limit the freedom of people on both sides of the Irish Sea to trade, to live, to work, to travel freely across these islands. Therefore we have agreed that the benefits of the common travel area be preserved."